Our rheumatic fever research program aims to:
Our research benefits from collaborations with our researchers working on other inflammatory diseases. We also work closely with rheumatic fever researchers at other organisations including:
Acute rheumatic fever is an autoimmune disease that occurs after infection with bacteria called group A streptococci. These bacteria typically cause throat or skin infections, which can be treated with antibiotics.
In some people, particularly children, the immune cells responding to the bacterial infection mistakenly attack the body’s own tissues, causing inflammation in the:
Acute rheumatic fever is often a serious disease warranting hospitalisation. The immune attack on the heart can cause scarring and permanent damage, a condition called rheumatic heart disease.
People who have had acute rheumatic fever are at greater risk of developing the disease again. Every occurrence of the disease increases the amount of heart damage. In the long term, rheumatic heart disease can cause heart failure.
In Australia, acute rheumatic fever is most prevalent in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly children living in remote communities. Rheumatic heart disease is a significant cause of illness and death in young adults in these communities.
Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are also a serious global health burden, causing more than 300,000 deaths annually. Worldwide, rheumatic heart disease is the most common form of heart disease in children.
Acute rheumatic fever occurs in people who have been infected with group A streptococcal bacteria. However, only a small percentage of people infected with this bacterium go on to develop acute rheumatic fever.
Factors increasing a person’s likelihood of developing acute rheumatic fever include:
Preventing and treating acute rheumatic fever relies on:
The heart valve damage caused by rheumatic heart disease is permanent and may need surgical repair.